- SEPTEMBER 13, 2014 12:00AM
For a more nutritious alternative try this super gluten-free grain.
Quinoa is the new superhero of the grain world and, like any masked avenger with cred, it comes with a mysterious back story.
It was originally cultivated on the steep slopes of the Andes mountains in Peru and Bolivia, hence the name that, at this end of the world at least, looks nothing like it sounds – keen-wah. Health food stores and hippy cafes were the first to twig to its magical powers but now it has become the darling of trend-setting chefs and mums looking for a more nutritious alternative to rice, couscous et cetera.
Handled badly, particularly overcooked, it can be quite unappealing. But keep the grain firm and slightly nutty, add your favourites spices and accompaniments, and you will start to understand what the fuss is about.
Food writer Chrissy Freer, who has just released a book called Supergrains: Cook Your Way to Great Health, is a big fan. “Out of all the grains quinoa really stands out,” she says.
“Its nutritional profile is quite superior.”
“It has all the essential amino acids so it’s a complete protein which is unusual. “It is gluten-free, high in fibre and rich in other nutrients. It is also really easy and quick to cook.”
Quinoa comes in three different colours – white, red and black. White is most widely available, and also the quickest to cook. Black takes the longest to cook and keeps more of its crunchy texture. Red is somewhere in the middle. Chrissy recommends a blend of all three, if it is available, “so you get some texture from the black, but it’s not too crunchy”.
Quinoa is as easy to cook as rice and is treated in much the same way. Chrissy recommends first giving it a quick rinse to remove any remaining bitter coating that is normally taken off during the production process.
“Then put it in a saucepan and add twice the amount of water – for 1 cup of quinoa use 2 cups water, maybe slightly less if it is for a salad and you want a crunchier texture.
“Put it on the heat without a lid until it comes to the boil, put on lid, turn heat down and simmer for 12-15 minutes.”
Cook the other colours for a few minutes longer.
Quinoa works brilliantly with Middle Eastern and Indian spices such as cumin, coriander and paprika. For easy flavouring, add a pinch while the quinoa is cooking.
Even better is cooking the quinoa in a similar way to a pilaf, frying onion, garlic, ginger and chilli with the spices first, stirring the grain through the oil for 30 seconds and then adding water or even stock.
For a salad, the quinoa can be dressed after it is cooked.
“It’s one of those versatile things where you can make it Moroccan, Mexican, or Indian,” Chrissy says. “It goes really well with cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon. Or Mediterranean flavours like feta, olive oil, lemon, parsley and mint.”
Originally published on taste.com.au